Samsung revealed its new flagship smartphone—the Galaxy S7—today at Mobile World Congress (MWC), and we were lucky enough to get our hands on the device for a short demo. After spending a few minutes testing the device, it became clear that Samsung can still make a great Android phone.
The Galaxy S7 is all about refinement: The camera is, once again, better than last year’s model. The build quality has been improved again, too. But most important of all, Samsung brought back the expandable memory slot, so you can increase your storage with a cheap micro-SD card. There’s a lot to love in the Galaxy S7, and its slightly thinner counterpart, the Galaxy S7 Edge. Here’s a quick rundown of the six things you need to know about the new devices:
Water resistance and expandable storage is back
Despite the Galaxy S6's refined design last year, its lack of expandable storage and water resistance was, for many people, a huge loss. The Galaxy S7 is different. By using a hybrid SIM tray, the S7 can hold up to 200GB of expandable storage. It’s also IP68 rated, meaning it can survive a drop in 5 feet of water for 30 minutes. That also means you could theoretically shower with the phone—though jets of water disrupt the capacitive touchscreen, so it wouldn’t be usable. But it would survive the soak. If that’s something you’re into... (I’m not weird, you’re weird!)
Samsung was also able to shave a millimeter or two off the camera bump on the back of the phone. It also employs the Galaxy Note 5's curved back, which makes the phone much easier to hold. It’s easily one of the most comfortable phones I’ve palmed in a while.
The Galaxy’s great camera is now even greater
I’m going to save my thorough analysis for our official review coming in a few weeks, but the few minutes I spent thumbing around with the S7's camera left an indelible impression. The big bump in performance is obsessively focused on low-light settings. Although the camera drops from 16 megapixels to 12, those bigger pixels let in 56 percent more light, according to Samsung. With a f/1.7 aperture and a rearranged sensor layout for faster focus speeds, suddenly the Galaxy S7 comes with the most impressive phone camera system I’ve ever seen.
Despite being in a closed-off testing room like some pale-skinned agoraphobe, I peeled back a curtain to take a few test shots of the busy a New York City street—much to the chagrin of one Samsung rep. Although I unfortunately don’t have the sample, the shutter was lightning quick, the color accuracy looked great in HDR, and the detail, even at max zoom, was undeniably impressive. If there’s one thing to be excited about—it’s this responsive and accurate camera.
The Galaxy S7 is now “Always On”
Lots of smartphones have tried to provide around-the-clock information without completely draining the battery, but Samsung thinks its finally solved the puzzle. With its energy-efficient AMOLED display and Snapdragon 820 processor, the Galaxy S7 comes with an always-on option that can show the time, calendar, notifications, or even spartan wallpaper designs. The only downside is that the options are somewhat limited, and you can’t read notifications. But if Samsung can truly bring all this info to the lock screen without sacrificing on battery life, it’d be a big plus.
Samsung gets serious about gaming and virtual reality
Samsung’s always been on the forefront of using smartphones to power VR headsets, the S7 doesn’t mess with the formula. The S7 will be compatible with its latest $100 Gear VR headset and Samsung will also be hocking its own Portal turret—I mean, Gear 360 camera. You can create your VR stuff right on the S7 with the phones’s processor doing all the video stitching. When connected to the S7, you can also get a live preview of what the camera is seeing and also cycle through different modes. You can read all about it right here.